Ancient Teeth In China: Shocking Discovery May Rewrite Human History

Christian Savoy - Author

Oct. 17 2015, Updated 1:04 p.m. ET

Ancient human teeth were recently discovered in China and the shocking find could rewrite human history. The 47 teeth were found in a limestone cave in Daoxian in Hunan Province, which is located in southern China. Researchers who have examined the teeth believe they are between 80,000 and 120,000-years-old.

Speaking with media outlets, Michael Petraglia, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, gave the following statement to Nature.

“This is stunning, it’s major league,” Petraglia, who was not involved in the study, said. “It’s one of the most important finds coming out of Asia in the last decade.”

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The discovery of the ancient teeth in China suggests that homo sapiens came to Asia tens of thousands of years before scientists thought. As explained in a report from CNN, the widely accepted theory of modern human migration, known as “Out of Africa,” is based on available scientific evidence that indicates modern humans originated in Africa and made their first successful migration to the rest of the world in a single wave between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago.

“This demonstrates it was not a failed dispersal,” Petraglia explained. “This is a rock-solid case for having early humans — definitely homo sapiens — at an early date in eastern Asia.”

María Martinón-Torres, a palaeoanthropologist at University College London, said that researchers did not expect to find human remains dating that far back in China.

Martinón-Torres, who co-led the study with Wu Liu and Xie-jie Wu at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, said the team knew almost immediately that the teeth belonged to homo sapiens. The results of the study were published in Nature this week.

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This is the first time anyone has proven the existence of modern humans in China earlier than previously thought. In 2011, Simon J. Armitage and his colleagues found evidence that suggested homo sapiens had reached Arabia about 125,000 years ago. According to Science Daily, Armitage, a researcher from Royal Holloway, University of London, discovered an ancient human toolkit at the Jebel Faya archaeological site in the United Arab Emirates. He was able to calculate the age of the stone tools using a technique known as luminescence dating and determined that the artifacts were about 100,000 to 125,000-years-old.

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“These ‘anatomically modern’ humans — like you and me — had evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago and subsequently populated the rest of the world,” Armitage explained. “Our findings should stimulate a re-evaluation of the means by which we modern humans became a global species.”

Until now, the oldest traces of modern humans in China have been dated back only to 40,000 years -50,000 years ago.

The ancient teeth were described as being very small and simple, and had flat crowns and narrow roots. It is virtually impossible to distinguish them from the teeth of modern man, researchers noted.

The teeth were discovered inside a cave and they were well preserved in a layer of sand, along with bones from more than 30 different animals. Scientist plan to extract DNA from the teeth samples to shed more light on the origins of the Daoxian people. Since the teeth were so old, carbon dating couldn’t be used to determine the age, so researchers had to analyze nearby limestone and other human remains to find out how old they were.

“They really look modern, but they are very old,” Martinón-Torres said. “And they are very old also particularly when we take into account that they were found in China.”

Martinón-Torres is enthusiastic about the work the renowned research team has done in China. The finding tells us that modern practices were being used by humans in southern China 100,000 years ago.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Martinón-Torres.

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